Midway Contemporary Art is pleased to host Dick’s Last Stand, a performance by New York-based artist Donelle Woolford.
The performance is realized in cooperation with the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, as part of the 2014 Biennial. This edition of the Biennial—the country’s best-known survey of the latest developments in American art—will take place March 7–May 25, 2014. It will be the last Biennial in the Museum’s building at 945 Madison Avenue before the Museum moves downtown to its new building in the spring of 2015. This is the 77th in the Museum’s ongoing series of Annuals and Biennials begun in 1932 by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney.
Donelle Woolford’s cathartic new body of work chronicles the place of honor afforded the male sex organ in American art and politics, and continues the oral tradition of phallic humor and innuendo in popular culture. Through the picaresque adventures of a character named Richard—aka ‘Dick’—Dick’s Last Stand is a 40-minute reenactment of the standup routine that Richard Pryor performed in 1977 for the last episode of his short-lived television show. The routine is a subversive work of deconstruction and social commentary that, by Pryor’s design, was censored from the final NBC broadcast. Consequently, Pryor’s standup has only ever been experienced by the 75+ people who were in the live studio audience that night.
Thus, Dick’s Last Stand honors Pryor’s brash political humor and marks it’s return to the live stage, where it’s allegories on race, conformity, representation, and subterfuge are as painfully hilarious as ever.
Throughout the original performance Pryor continually dissembled himself, playing with the notion that Richard Pryor, comedian, was someone who could not be pinned down or controlled. He slid from one character or attitude to the next without ever indicating when—if ever—the audience was seeing the “real” Richard Pryor. This chimerical quality, this defiance, is what attracted Woolford to the performance in the first place, but her reenactment pushes the mise en abyme even further. Instead of Richard Pryor playing Richard Pryor playing Mudbone, Dick’s Last Stand is Donelle Woolford playing Richard Pryor playing Richard Pryor playing Mudbone—across generations and in drag.
The tour of Dick’s Last Stand is as follows:
LA Art Book Fair, Los Angeles 1/31/14
LA><ART, Los Angeles 2/2/14
Wattis Institute, San Francisco 2/6/14
Solespace, Oakland 2/8/14
MOCAD, Detroit 2/14/14
Dorchester Projects, Chicago 2/18/14
JACK, Brooklyn 3/7/14
The Kitchen, New York 4/1/14
Midway Contemporary Art, Minneapolis 5/20/14
Bemis Center for Contemporary Art, Omaha 5/21/14
White Flag Projects, St. Louis 2/22/14
Contemporary Art Center, Peoria 5/24/14
Donelle Woolford (b. 1980 in Detroit, U.S.A.) lives and works in New York City, Brooklyn, The Bronx, Philadelphia, London, and Vienna. She has participated in the exhibitions Double Agent at the ICA London; The 8th Sharjah Biennial, United Arab Emirates; and Buy American at Galerie Chez Valentin, Paris. Her performances have been staged at Palais de Tokyo, Paris; The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; The Lewis Center for the Arts, Princeton; The Suburban, Chicago; and the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven. She is represented by Wallspace, New York, and Galerie Martin Janda, Vienna.